GUWAHATI, June 2 - There were over 20,000 unclaimed Provident Fund accounts amounting to several crores of rupees with the Assam Tea Employees Provident Fund Organisation as on March 31 this year.
The unclaimed PF accounts have bemused the ATEPFO and has smacked of a ghost worker scam in the tea gardens, especially those controlled from places outside the State like Kolkata.
�Some amounts in the PF accounts are as big as Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh. Why will a worker not claim it if he actually exists? For a tea garden worker it is a huge amount,� industry sources wondered. The PF is claimed by the workers through the managements.
Twenty four per cent of a worker�s wages goes into the PF account � 12 per cent from the worker�s side and 12 from the employer�s side.
The sources said that the ghost worker scam has been going in the gardens for quite some time.
�The list of workers in many gardens is much more than the actual men on ground. The wages of these ghost workers are siphoned off by a section of garden employees. However, against each worker in the muster roll, PF has to be deposited. These PF accounts of the ghost workers are not claimed later as the person actually does not exist,� the sources said.
This mismatch in the number of workers is often seen more in the stressed gardens, and some in the industry feel that this scam was behind many gardens running into losses.
One particular garden in the State has 1,649 unclaimed PF accounts amounting to Rs 27 lakh. There are several gardens having 100 to 500 unclaimed PF accounts as on date, a probe into which may unearth a massive scam in the State�s biggest industry.
�Unless there is a punching system for attendance it is difficult to check the fraud. The managements should take note of it and put in place a fingerprint attendance system for the registered workers,� the sources added.
One of the largest financial institutions in the Northeast, the ATEPFO has around 10 lakh PF accounts.